Purity Culture's Dirty Little Secret

Purity Culture’s Dirty Little Secret

Let’s discuss the Purity Culture’s dirty little secret. This belief was taught to the extreme within the cult I was in and also in many other oppressive religious cults today…for example the Duggar family. Women are given most of the responsibility of keeping the men’s sexual thoughts, actions and motives pure. Yep, Purity Culture’s dirty little secret is that it strives to protect only men! If I could list the number of women I know who have personally been a victim of sexual abuse and sexual assault and had the blame placed on them because of this teaching, we would literally be here all day just telling their stories.  Not only does it place the blame on the women for abuse/assault, it also blames the women for their husbands being unfaithful, being addicted to porn and engaging in any other sexual “sin”.

This is a topic that has been on my mind so much lately, and I’ve been struggling with how to approach it. How do you talk about something so heinous yet SO prevalent in religious communities or as in my case, cults where people just turn a blind eye to it, and protect the abusers and crucify the victims? Well, you have to be willing to get uncomfortable. You ready?

What Purity Culture Looks Like

You see, I have my own story about sexual abuse and assault, but I have always felt like my own story is so MINOR compared to the other stories that I know about. I don’t carry the gnarly emotional scars that so many other women do, and because of this, I’ve not ever really shared my story. This past weekend though, I began writing my story out, in great detail. I asked my husband to read it, and I watched his face the entire time. The shades of red, and visible rage looming in his eyes told me that perhaps my story was one I could…no, should share. Perhaps, even though it’s “minor” in comparison to others, it might let another woman know that YES, what she endured was actually abuse or assault and not at ALL okay and not remotely her fault.

With the Purity Culture mindset, it is unreal how much blame and responsibility is placed on the woman. It’s so similar to the mentality of men excusing rape by saying, “Well did you see how she was dressed? She was asking for it!”. Instead, though, it’s wrapped up in a much prettier package and wax sealed with Bible verses. For instance, it was pounded into me that men HAVE to HAVE sex. That they have this carnal, basically uncontrollable need for sex. As a single man, it’s extremely difficult for them to control these urges, so the responsibility is placed on women to dress modestly, behave modestly, and not sit, move, or reveal anything that might cause a man to lust. As a married woman, you were expected to keep your husband sexually satisfied no matter what, and if you didn’t then you better expect him to cheat or turn to porn. And if he did, it’s your fault. So much responsibility was placed on us girls, women and wives. For years, I was only allowed to wear dresses, and those were to come below the knee and to the ankle was preferred. Pants drew a man’s eye up to my crotch, and hugged my butt in a sexual way, so they were not allowed. If I did wear them around the house, I had to have a shirt on that covered my butt, and that could only be worn as pajamas. Crazy that even in the privacy of my own home, a place that should be a child’s safe haven, I was considered a temptation simply because I was female. Do you see how sick and wrong that is??

My Story

So, with that mentality in mind, when I was molested and later assaulted by one of the preacher’s sons, you can imagine what was said. I can still hear the preacher telling my mother, “Jill, we all know that Heather just wants attention. There is no way something that bad happened. She’s exaggerating and lying.”. I was quite young when this happened. I didn’t have a full understanding of sex, yet I KNEW what that young boy did to me was WRONG. The adults in my life that should have listened and protected me, did nothing but empower that young boy to think that he did nothing wrong. They showed him that the girl wouldn’t be believed, so he was able to get away with his crime.

Several years later, when I was in my teens, it happened again. This time it was worse. He assaulted and violated me in ways that I won’t go into explicit detail about here. What I do want to make clear though is that even though I was not raped, that in no way belittles the emotional scars and effect this has had on me my entire life. That young man’s actions left me with triggers and scars that I carried into my sex life with my husband. There are certain things that can send me into an immediate panic…things that most would consider totally normal in a healthy sexual relationship. So, don’t let anyone tell you “oh it wasn’t that bad.” Or “It could have been so much worse, so you’re fine! Quit making something out of nothing.”. These were just some of the things said to me when I exposed what he had done. Again, no adults protected me. In fact, I was labeled a liar and an attention seeker. Teenagers are cruel, even in the confines of a religious cult. The amount of hate and vitriol spewed my way was horrific. Eventually it was severe enough to shut me up. The more sermons I heard on protecting the guys, the more I began to blame myself for what had happened. I literally gaslighted myself into believing the same exact lies that others were saying about me.

It’s taken me years to unravel this story in my head and to heal from the trauma, emotional abuse, gaslighting and fully understand the fallacies of the Purity Culture mentality and all the many ways it’s so damaging and supportive of abuse and sexual assault.  Today, I can’t help but wonder if that young man had been properly taught about sex AND women if perhaps he wouldn’t have gone on to ruin many other women’s lives. He didn’t stop with me. I’m not sure if I was his first victim, but if his parents had chosen to see the issues he was having at such a young age, and provided him with the proper help and therapy, maybe his life would have been different. Instead, they denied his abuse/assaults, and he carried on with his disgusting behaviors. Last I heard he was married, with children, had cheated on his wife, yet she stayed with him, and the two of them were asked by their pastor to counsel some young couples preparing for marriage. I just…wow…what do you say to that. It’s shocking and I truly have no words other then, I am so thankful to be FREE of that cult.

More Ways Purity Culture Harms

From an awkward teenage girl on up into young womanhood, I walked around feeling guilty and ashamed about my feminine body. Even though I wasn’t one of the “popular” pretty girls (yep those exist in cults too), I still attracted attention from time to time. I remember my Mom telling me once that I needed to be careful how I walked, because the sway of hips was considered sexual. So I became extremely aware of my walk. Then the flip side of the Purity Culture that no one really talks about is that even though we women had to hide our bodies, we were expected to look amazing under those clothes. How else would we keep our future husbands satisfied and not looking elsewhere to more attractive women? Us girls who were naturally more curvy, were called fat and made fun of relentlessly. Parents didn’t stop this bullying either. It was part of the culture. The teasing was so relentless that I could only see myself as a lazy gluttonous sinner who loved food more than God, and that my body would never satisfy a man.  It was ALWAYS about the man…pleasing the man. Not our health, not teaching and showing boys and men the beauty in all shapes and sizes of women, no body positivity. Nope, it was all about protecting and then keeping the MAN satisfied.

This protecting of the men/abusers doesn’t stop here with sexual abuse, unfortunately. My husband and I personally watched and fought to defend and protect a young woman who was stuck in a horribly abusive marriage, yet this cult said she was to just submit and divorce wasn’t an option. These preachers even said to my husband when he confronted them about this horrid behavior, “Wouldn’t you be angry enough to hit Heather if she was doing these things??”. That was the last time my husband and I stepped foot in one of these churches. Since then, our name has been slandered, we have both been lied about, even by our own family members and have lost friends AND family because we stood for the woman and not her abuser who they were so adamant about protecting. This is what the men and preachers are doing within these churches/cults that push these beliefs, and not just the one I was involved in. It’s common practice to protect the men and toss the women and children out. Yet, I heard at nauseum while in these churches, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church” and preachers telling young men to protect the girls because they are the “weaker vessel”…yet this is what was going on behind closed doors. This is Purity Culture’s dirty little secret. It gives men the freedom to do whatever they want, and put all the responsibility on the women. It’s time to hold these men accountable. It’s time to share our stories and call out this garbage being done under the guise of so called Christianity, because if you think for one second that there is no way this stuff is still going on, think again! It’s only getting worse.

We MUST Get Uncomfortable

It’s not comfortable to discuss these things. In fact it’s incredibly uncomfortable. But you know what? Growth doesn’t happen in comfort. We have to step outside of our comfort and have these uncomfortable conversations if we want to be a part of the change. Staying comfortable in your silence makes you complicit and part of the problem. It’s time to get uncomfortable, my friends, and uncover this ugliness. It’s time to shed light on on this dirty little secret. It’s time to bravely shine.

 

Go read this post to learn even more about the suffering the Purity Culture inflicts upon women-  Purity Culture Set Me Up To Marry An Abuser 

 

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